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Blood and Sand – An Updated Preview of Gods & Heroes at GDC 2011

Updated Tue, Mar 15, 2011 by B. de la Durantaye

I’ll be the first to admit that when Heatwave Interactive announced they had bought the rights and assets to the Roman Mythological themed Gods & Heroes: Rome Rising MMOG, I was cautiously optimistic. I enjoyed the game years ago for the brief amount of time I had spent in beta when it was being developed by Perpetual Entertainment. However, with all of the events surrounding its closure back then I had to wonder how Heatwave could bring the game back to life and have it stand on its own two feet—particularly given that the client was already a little dated before Heatwave even got a chance to start working on it.

Shortly after the acquisition announcement the game entered into a playable beta stage. At this point some of our Ten Ton Hammer Premium members were on our Elite Testers list and began their job of providing feedback and bug reports for the game. I have been a part of countless beta tests for a myriad of games, but Heatwave presented Gods & Heroes in its new and evolving state at GDC this year and I couldn’t help but be thoroughly impressed.

gods and heroes: rome rising

All of the early feedback was considered by the developers and of that pretty much every single major point of concern was addressed. I was in awe at the amount of work these folks have put into the game and had I not seen it with my own eyes, it would be hard for me to believe. From combat animations to an introduction of a crafting system to epic group battles, Heatwave has made it abundantly clear that they are not only taking their beta testers’ feedback seriously, they’re also going above and beyond to ensure that the game will launch with enough flavor and hook that even today’s expectations are met. This is quite an accomplishment for an original game client that was already dated before Heatwave even got their hands on it.

It's safe to say that our Elite Testers program here at Ten Ton Hammer has several gamers who are crazy about MMOGs. They've seen it all. They know what works and what doesn't work. And to be candid, when the group was first introduced to Gods & Heroes the feedback started up fast and hard. They were pretty merciless in their reporting of features that were missing and bugs that were appearing.

gods and heroes: rome rising

"All of the early feedback was considered by the developers and of that pretty much every single major point of concern was addressed. I was in awe at the amount of work these folks have put into the game and had I not seen it with my own eyes, it would be hard for me to believe."
Often in cases like this it would be far easier for the developer to take the feedback with a grain of salt and touch on some of the concerns but label the others as 'unrealistic,' or as vocal minority reports. That's the easy way out. But Heatwave did the exact opposite here. They read and addressed every single issue. Features have been added and fleshed out, bugs have been squashed, and the interface and animations have been polished. Heatwave took the feedback very seriously and went through major game design changes to address these concerns. We're not just talking about quick fixes for some graphical glitches here. They've added whole new feature sets, like an entire crafting system, to ensure the game launches in the best state it possibly can and make an impact on today's market.

This is no small feat. Launching a game is challenging enough. Launching one that was taken from an old client which didn't have support for modern technology and was in some regards quite dated already, is a quest of epic proportions. But this is the type of challenge Heatwave has embraced. Not only have they done it, but they've done it with grace.

gods and heroes: rome rising

These are developers who love their game and it's apparent at every turn. The IP is taken advantage of in every cool way imaginable, from battling giant cyclopses to channelling the power of the gods and visiting mythical landmarks and personalities. I even got to see a glimpse of Archimedes Death Ray in the demo. Put simply, the essence of Roman Mythology has been captured by the passionate individuals behind the game's development.

One of the most alluring new features coming to a beta near you is the removal of player camps and an introduction of Player Estates. Functionally, the estates have all of the same amenities as one had in their camps previously (merchants and NPCs to offer services for equipment, trainers for skills, etc.) but Estates offer so much more. Buildings and NPCs will populate these instances and quests and achievements throughout the game world will contribute to improving the player’s estate. Not only that but the estate is bound to an account so all characters on that account will be able to enjoy the benefits the player has already unlocked, and continue to unlock more on their alternate characters, should they have any.

The Estates are large in size and will be able to accommodate everything a player may need; from statues of their deities to quest NPCs to housing and crafting options.

gods and heroes: rome rising

Did I just say crafting? Yes, Heatwave Interactive has committed to adding a crafting system to the game. There aren’t any details yet to be had, but I was told that when the proposed system was introduced at a production meeting the room was filled with “Oh my god, that’s so COOL!” It will be different from other crafting systems we see in many MMOGs of today but as for the specific details, we’ll have to wait just a little longer before we learn that.

Another highlight for me at the demo was some of the great new animations added to combat. When I had first had some hands-on time with the game back in the fall of last year animations were one of the top concerns of the players. They felt dated and disconnected. Well, that’s all changed. I was shown several battles with different types of high-level mobs, and the animations had me giggling like a school girl. I watched in glee as the player character was picked up by a giant Cyclops and then thrown to the ground. I laughed heartily as the player character was stomped into the ground and butted out like a cigarette. I was also told of other animations involving being picked up and wrung out like a wet dish rag. All of these types of combat animations make the game that much more fun to play.

The end result of the meeting at GDC: I’m once again very much looking forward to the launch of Gods  & Heroes: Rome Rising. I strongly believe the right team is on the job as it’s a team committed to listening to feedback and implementing it well. There is no half-assed work here. Everything that has been added has been done so with care and thought. Well done Heatwave!
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